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“Kids Changing Systems” YouthPower Recommendations on Transportation Issues

On October 19, the GradMinnesota Advisory Meeting was held at St. Paul Youth Services to hear the perspectives of youth on GradMinnesota’s priority recommendationMake Transportation Accessible to All Students. Members of YouthPower (Black boys and young men ages 13-15 who are residents of St. Paul and attend St. Paul Public Schools) provided their thoughts, voiced their concerns and offered six policy recommendations to help improve the overall youth experience when riding public transit.

Dr. Tracine Asberry introduced the panel and opened the discussion by noting that transit issues cannot be isolated to school activities alone. Transportation issues for youth in St. Paul are also related to employment opportunities; limited access to enrichment activities and programs geared for Black youth; responsibilities caring for family members; youth safety; and the lack of trusting relationships between youth of color and the individuals and systems designed to protect them.

The panel made recommendations regarding routes, bus shelters, interaction with bus drivers and transit police, cost, bus rules and consequences.  They emphasized that youth voice is both critical and largely missing from discussions on these issues.

For example, YouthPower members shared that the frequency of buses should be increased, especially before and after school, and more direct routes be added. They also discussed how bus shelters can provide a welcome reprieve from the cold, but are not at every stop and need to be well-lit, clean and well-maintained. Additionally, they noted that navigating the metro can be challenging, especially for youth, and recommended that Metro Transit staff receive training on how to interact with and assist youth in a positive and respectful manner.

Cost was a significant concern.  Many young riders have been priced out of public transportation (since youth at age 13 are required to pay adult fare). Panel members recommended all youth have free or reduced fare tickets or “Go-To Cards,” to increase equal access and eliminate additional costs of getting to school and enrichment activities. For youth that cannot afford to pay for transportation, fare evasion penalties become major barriers. If caught riding without paying the fare, a rider can expect a $180+ fine, comparable to a speeding ticket. The panel stated that consequences for infringements should fit the action; youth should be held accountable without such drastic and lasting negative consequences.

The panel stated that to be most just, Black youth voice be included in the decision-making at the Metro Transit Advisory Council. The introduction of a voting member to the council would be an important step forward. Youth know the challenges of the transit system firsthand and have the experience and perspective necessary to inform policy.

GradMinnesota is interested in gathering more information from youth, especially young people in greater Minnesota, on the issue of transportation.  If you would like to share your thoughts to inform others and our actions, please e-mail Colin Casey at ccasey@staging1.mnyouth.net.

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